Questionable Motives

March 8, 2010

What are home-schooled kids learning from their biology textbooks?

In this article, the creeping dominance of a christian theology in home-school textbooks is examined with particular emphasis on how the fact of evolution is being intentionally misrepresented:

Christian-based materials dominate a growing home-school education market that encompasses more than 1.5 million students in the U.S. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation is exactly what they want. Federal statistics from 2007 show 83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children “religious or moral instruction.” “The majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians,” said Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association. “Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program.” Those who don’t, however, often feel isolated and frustrated from trying to find a textbook that fits their beliefs. Two of the best-selling biology textbooks stack the deck against evolution, said some science educators who reviewed sections of the books at the request of The Associated Press. “I feel fairly strongly about this. These books are promulgating lies to kids,” said Jerry Coyne, an ecology and evolution professor at the University of Chicago. The textbook publishers defend their books as well-rounded lessons on evolution and its shortcomings. One of the books doesn’t attempt to mask disdain for Darwin and evolutionary science.

“Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling,” says the introduction to “Biology: Third Edition” from Bob Jones University Press. “This book was not written for them.”

Wow. Since when was any legitimate science supposed to lie and misrepresent information to favour unjustified superstitious beliefs? If the science of something is not testable, falsifiable, predictive, and consistent, then it ain’t science. In this case, it’s theological creationism, which has not been, is not now, nor shall ever be science. What ever such a science textbook as the one that contains that bold face bit in the introduction purports to be, it most definitely is not biology but a very edited, grossly biased, extraordinarily poor facsimile of religiously sanctioned pap. Shame on parents who subject their kids to this kind of intellectual dishonesty masquerading as science and pretend it is a legitimate education. It isn’t.

Coyne and Virginia Tech biology professor Duncan Porter reviewed excerpts from the Apologia and Bob Jones biology textbooks, which are equivalent to ninth- and 10th-grade biology lessons. Porter said he would give the books an F.

“If this is the way kids are home-schooled then they’re being shortchanged, both rationally and in terms of biology,” Coyne said.

Because the article gave Jerry’s URL, he wrote up a redux article and was bombarded with comments so he wrote yet another one called Home-schoolers respond, where Coyne continued to refine his opinion about the home-school biology texts:

Sadly, there’s not much that is useful if you don’t want to force creationism down your kid’s throat.

But, as Lovan noted in his piece, “83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children ‘religious or moral instruction.’”

I weep for those children.  For many of them are simply being brainwashed by their parents.  Yes, that’s what it is—brainwashing.  For a parent to ignore 150 years of solid science, feeding their children lies based on theology, is to deprive those children of the wonder of the universe—a wonder based on truth rather than medieval superstition.  It kills off the part of a child that most needs nurturing: her sense of wonder, and all the possibilities of life that are opened up by that wonder.  How many budding biologists have been stifled by their parents’ willful ignorance of science, and on their insistence that the Bible is the real source of biological information?  Generation after generation of ignorance and religious dogmatism, all perpetuated by religously based home-schooling.

It is interesting to read the articles and follow the thread of comments and see for yourself just how malicious so many moral-teaching home-school parents can be when faced with very legitimate criticism about the weakness of some of the teaching materials by a world-renowned biologist who happens to know a thing or two about what constitutes good teaching material for biology. But again, Coyne raises an excellent point to all those who attacked him:

To those who are constantly whining about the “incivility” of atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, I suggest that you might first have a look at the behavior of some Christians.

It is the stark comparison that determines just how civil are the ‘militant’ atheists.


  1. Wrong again! IN these text books evolution, creationism, intelligent design are all taught side by side. With the facts showing what is missing and why. So it’s not one sided. You should really get one and look at it yourself – very interesting stuff!

    Comment by 4amzgkids — March 12, 2010 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

    • But creationism and ID are twins in the field of theology. They are not science. One-sided has nothing to do with it because these theories are not equal.

      Comment by tildeb — March 13, 2010 @ 12:09 am | Reply

  2. Should voodoo witch doctoring be taught in medical school, side by side?

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 14, 2010 @ 9:16 pm | Reply

  3. […] Jerry Coyne, Religion, Superstition, belief, commentary, creationism — tildeb @ 10:49 am Several posts ago we looked at the issue of homeschooling biology textbooks out of Bob Jones University that endorsed […]

    Pingback by What is the key to accepting unjustifed beliefs as true? « Questionable Motives — March 17, 2010 @ 11:23 am | Reply

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